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NRC chairman resigns amid battle over lessons from Fukushima

In his three years as chairman, Gregory Jaczko wrangled with other NRC members over the direction of nuclear power plant safety regulations and over his leadership style.

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In this Dec. 15, 2011 file photo, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Susan Walsh/AP/File

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Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, announced Monday he would resign from the five-member commission that oversees US nuclear power plant safety after a tenure in which he wrangled with other members of the commission over the direction of safety regulations.

Mr. Jaczko's chairmanship, which began with tumult three years ago over the NRC's controversial decision to cancel the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository – now concludes on the heels of a tumultuous year attempting to implement "lessons learned" from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. He announced his resignation amid an ongoing battle over his proposals to tighten safety regulations at US nuclear power plants in the wake of the Japanese disaster.

On Jazcko's watch, the NRC responded to major incidents at reactors across the United States including flooding, an earthquake, and tornados as well as serious mechanical problems. Notably, Jaczko activated the commission's emergency response authority and personally directed the NRC's initial response in the days after a huge tidal wave hit the Daiichi plant on March 10, 2011 – knocking out backup generators.

Jaczko and NRC staff monitored the unfolding crisis around the clock and made key decisions. He told Americans in Japan to stay at least 50-miles away from the unfolding meltdowns. And he created a task force to recommend steps the US should take to reinforce safety measures for US reactors.

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